Tag Archives: 2016

Book Review: 26 Miles to the Moon

Not the kind of book that I usually read, however a number of my running friends had read 26 Miles to the Moon by Andrew Males and they had all given it a good account.  Word of mouth always goes a long way in my mind, so I picked up a copy and began reading.

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It took me about a week to read this book, which is usually a good indication on how much I am enjoying the story.  Such was my enjoyment that I even read a few chapters whilst sat on the bike in the gym.  Thankfully the gym was empty otherwise I may have received some pretty disapproving looks!

The book quickly develops and you soon start to build up an attachment to the lead character, Jon Dunn, especially when he is being lead astray by the mischievous Summer! Before you realise it the story has developed and moved to New York, where marathon training begins.  I suppose this is where I find myself being a little disappointed. As a runner I was rather hoping the story would go into more detail with the mental and physical side of preparations that a marathon would incur.  Instead more emphasis was placed on developing the relationship between Jon and Summer.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed reading this story, it is a page turner and the fact I read this whilst on an exercise bike is testament to this. It has a certain amount of adventure, some cracking humour that actually made me laugh out aloud, a villainous ice maiden, a visionary risk taker and of course your Mr average who could easily be you or I.

This is certainly a feel good book, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. The author not only knows about the highs and unbelievable lows or running a marathon, he also knows in detail the route of the New York marathon.  Something that can only be achieved if you have been there, bled, hobbled, cried, doubted yourself, persevered, celebrated, worn the T-shirt and praised the medal!

Is this a runners book? I would say not quite.  It certainly has running in it and the author obviously knows about running marathons.  Does that actually make a difference?  Not at all.  This is a great read by this first time author.

I now find myself quietly anticipating his next book.

Virtual Ultra Triathlon: March Update

March didn’t quite go as planned as I made one slight omission in my planning, I forgot about Easter!  As I do the majority of my exercise whilst at work or on the way to work, it meant my stats were going to take a slight hit over these two weeks.  I still managed to get out and do some running, so my running stats remain pretty good.

Some of the highlights of the month are:

  1.  On the 1 March I broke my PB for 5km, getting down to 20 mins 22 Secs.  Still aiming to get under 20 mins.
  2. On the 3 March I broke my PB for 10 miles for the second time in the space of a week.  I am now down to 1hr 12 min 25 secs for 10 miles.
  3. On the 16 March I went and broke a long standing PB, in that I broke my HM PB by 3 mins finally taking me below 100mins.  My new PB is now 1hr 39min 49 Secs.

An interesting highlight in my virtual ultra marathon is that my cycle route from John O’Groats caught up with and passed by run route from Ardnamurchen Lighthouse. The exact point is hard to say but on the 18 Mar I believe the cross over was on the A702 in the village of Crawford.

Even though I had not run as far in March, my knees have felt a little sore but nothing I am not used to.  I think this was only as a result of me pushing myself so hard on my HM when I realised at about the halfway point that I was on for a PB.  The other thing that I have noticed is that my fitness levels have really jumped a level in the last month.  This would explain the amount of PBs that I have been setting.  My comfortable running pace was always around 5 min to 5min 10 sec pace for a km.  I now find that I am comfortable running at around 4min 30 sec pace.  Last year I would find that I could run at this pace for maybe a km or two, yet now I find I can run at this new pace for 20km+.

I have also found that I am eating much more.  One night my wife looked at me in utter disgust when I cam back from the Fish and Chip shop with her small chips and a sausage, yet I had a large chips, large fish, large sausage and a curry sauce.  I could barely fit it all on my plate, not only did I eat the lot but I also ate a bag of mini eggs afterwards.  I was full after that, but didn’t feel bloated at all!

After three months here are the stats:

Running – Ardnamurchen Lighthouse to Lowestoft.

According to my tracker I managed to run a total of 127km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 372km, which means I have completed about 43.5% of my challenge.  The good news is that I am approximately 158.25km ahead of schedule.

My mileage wasn’t too bad this month as I managed to get out for a couple of long runs during the Easter break.  My left knee has felt a little sore, but nothing that a good nights sleep doesn’t resolve.  My fitness levels continue to improve and as already mentioned above I set a number of PBs this month.  As with the cycling my mileage is sufficiently high enough that I am now over a month ahead of schedule.

My virtual location is now on the B7076 just about to approach Gretna Green. During the month I have passed through Hamilton, Crawford, Elvanfoot and Lockerbie. Being only a km short of Gretna Green now means that I am going to run into England before a cycle in.

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Cycling – John O’Groats to Lands End.

According to my tracker I managed to cycle a total of 144km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 533km, which means I have completed about 34.39% of my challenge.  The really good news is that I am approximately 145.5km ahead of schedule.

I continue to cycle to and from work however as with the other events, cycling took a slight knock as I was off work for Easter. My milage is sufficiently high enough when I am at work that I could easily afford to have two weeks off for Easter without it affecting my totals.  In fact I am still an entire month ahead of schedule.

My virtual location is still on the A701 just approaching the town of Beattock.  During this month I passed through or by towns such as Elvanfoot, Crawford, Abington, Lesmahagow, Boghead, Hamilton, Cumbernauld, Bonnybridge, Stirling and Dunblane.  The next big target will be the town of Gretna Green when I will say goodbye to Scotland and hello to England.

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Rowing – The length of the Thames

According to my tracker I managed to row a meagre 25km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 91.55km, which means I have completed about 26.46% of my challenge. The good news is that I am approximately 5.05km ahead of schedule.

My virtual location is now just passed Kennington and Little London having passed through historic Oxford and also through the villages of Godford and Swinford.

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Due to Easter and being away from the gym at work meant that my rowing suffered this month, only completing an unimpressive 25km.  The good news is that I am still ahead of schedule, but the lesson learnt here is that I need to work harder on my rowing when I have the opportunity.  There will be other months when I am not able to get to the gym and I must ensure I am sufficiently ahead of schedule to cover these quieter months. Both my running and cycling continue to progress at a good rate as I am over a month ahead of schedule in both.  Given the days are getting longer my aim for April is to run rather than cycle to work more often.  I would love to reach the target of running 100 miles in a month.

Bring on April and the journey through England.

When you get the chance: Run!

It is not very often when I get an entire morning to myself, so when the opportunity comes along I go out for a long run.  I had no real idea how far I was going to go, but I knew I wanted it to be further than a HM.

I almost went out wearing leggings, however as I was just about to leave the house I realised the sun was out and the skies were blue.  Quick change into shorts and how thankful was I for making that decision.

Whilst I was waiting for my Garmin to locate the GPS, I did a few of my pre running stretches such as ankle rotations, knee rotations and hip flexor stretches.  I was feeling pretty good, nothing seemed to ache or feel sore.

I waved to a couple of runners but had nothing in return, usually I don’t mind but as I had opted not to wear headphones today I was rather looking forward to some interaction.

The sun was most definitely out and I was getting rather hot.  I had left my camel bak in work so I was carrying two water bottles.  The plan was to rehydrate every 5kms, or more often if needed.  It wasn’t long before I hit my first 5km in just 25 mins, everything felt good.

The deer were out in the park today and there were a few up by the Copper Horse. I remembered my phone this time so I was able to stop and take some photos.

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Copper Statue at the end of the Long Walk, Windsor.

Initially I was trying to run and type notes out as I went along.  This was quite difficult and then I remembered what Dean Karnazes used to do when he wrote his book, he would use a dictaphone.  I grabbed my phone and started to chat into it.  Must admit I had some funny looks but that didn’t bother me.

At 8.6km I said good morning to another runner and I was bowled over when he said good morning back.  I had not so much as had a nod or a wave up until this point, and now I get a full on Good Morning.  This will keep me going for ages.

At 10km it was time for a walking water stop.  I took this opportunity to have a quick self assessment and my left knee was feeling pretty sore.  Maybe my plan to run further than a HM was too ambitious for today?  For the time being I would carry on and see what happens, see if my foot placement is aggravating my knee.

It is strange the things that go through your mind whilst running.  I spent quite a lot of the time thinking about the run, how far had I gone, what was my pace, when is my next water break, why is my knee still sore, what shall I have for lunch when I get home, I still need to wash the babies bottles, its actually quite hot, no wait its cold now the sun has gone behind a cloud.  Meanwhile the kms are slowly passing.

By 11.4km the knee pain had gone, I was feeling really good and was now contemplating on whether I should cover a marathon distance on this run. I had a quick stop to take a photo of the Totem Pole at the edge of Virgina Waters, before moving off to run around the lake.

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The Totem Pole at Virgina Waters

At 12.2km I was still feeling really good and was now thinking what pace I needed to do in order to do a sub 4 hour marathon.  I had now been running for about 64 minutes.  I concluded that if kept this pace going I would achieve the sub 4 hour time.  I felt good so lets keep going.

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At 13.5km my left knee was sore again and now my left buttock was also sore.  Amazing how things change within a km.  Now having doubts about running a marathon today.  What kept my spirits high was that I knew I was coming up to a lovely waterfall, or Cascade as it is called here.

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The Cascade, Virgina Waters

At 15.2km it was another water break and I was starting to feel a little tired, my knee was still sore but at least my left buttock wasn’t too bad now.

By the time I reached 16.1km or 10 miles I was starting to feel slightly hungry.  Thankfully I put a couple of mini sausages in my bag as I was leaving the house.  Those little beauties went down a treat.  Something so simple can be a great pick me up.  Unfortunately I discovered my banana had been crushed by my water bottle in my bag.  That really upset me because  I was looking forward to eating that later.  One second you are up, the next moment you are down again.  I plodded on grumbling to myself for not protecting my banana.

By the time I got to 20km my knee wasn’t too bad, my buttocks were fine but the sole of my right foot was feeling sore.  My pace had also dropped off and I was now not on track for a sub 4 hour marathon.  I was also feeling quite fatigued so I decided I would still to my original plan.  As I was on my return journey now I knew I was about 10km away from home, which would put me on or around the 30km mark.  It was at this moment that I decided I would go for 20 miles so I needed to find and additional 2 kms from somewhere.  I had just passed Savill Gardens and I was about to hit Cow Pond, which I could run around a couple of times to make up the distance.  It turns out Cow Pond is approximately 600m around!

The next water break found me back at the Copper Horse, the deer had gone.  From my calculation I was going to be 600m short of 20 miles so I will have to find a little detour.  If I had know this earlier I could have done another lap of Cow Pond, although it was becoming a little boring after 4 laps.  I was also getting quite hungry now so decided I would eat my banana and I didn’t care how squashed it was, I want my banana!

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One squashed banana!

Right foot and right butt cheek are really sore now and i have 7km to go.

Really annoyed with myself, I must have stopped my watch when I had my banana yet I have no recollection of doing it. Here I was about to do my 600m detour and now I think I am about 2km short now!  It could have been worse, thankfully I checked my watch and noticed it was about to go into battery saving mode! When you are starting to hurt the last thing you need is a stupid mistake like this.  I never stop my watch on a run unless I am stuck crossing a road.  I kept my watch running when I stopped for photos and water breaks, so why would I stop it for a banana!

I was now debating with myself on whether I should just head home and then add on the km I knew I have just run.  I couldn’t do that, my compulsive obsession will not allow me to do it.  Instead I reached a crossroads and turned left, instead of turning right for home.  I ran 1km down the road and then turned round and headed back again.  Annoyingly I had forgotten about the original 600m that I was already going to be short, so at the next crossroads I turned left for 300m turn round and came back again.  When you are starting to suffer physically the last thing you need is extra distance and then mentally forcing yourself to do it.

By the time I hit 30km both my knees were feeling great, however my right foot was still sore and now my left hamstring was feeling like it may cramp.  Time for some more water and it was the last of it. Thankfully I only have 2.2km left to go and for some unknown reason the theme tune to the Tweenies entered my head and would not go away!

By the time I finished I had done 33km or 35km if I add on the 2km I accidentally didn’t record!  Both my knees were still feeling good, my left hamstring was ok again and my right foot wasn’t as bad as it was.  Both my butt cheeks were aching but that was to be expected.  Feeling tired and hungry, but generally in high spirits.  I think it was a good call not to go for the marathon distance, this time.

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Easter Training Plan: 51.25km later!

Every now and then I come up with a new concept to keep my running interesting. As it was the Easter break I wanted to try and incorporate all three disciplines of my #VirtualUltraTriathlon into one training session, so that I maintained my momentum over the break.

It occurred to me that I could run to my workplace as I had access to the gym. However the route to work is only 3.5km, which really didn’t seem challenging for me.  In order to increase the distance I would detour into The Great Park, not that I had any particular route in mind.  I would just ‘wing it’ and see how close i could get to 10km.  I quickly sketched out the plan that was formulating in my mind.

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The easy part, in my head, was that once I arrived at the gym I would do smash out a 5km row, 20km on the bike and then another 5km row before running home again. As ever with me, things like this always seem so much simpler in my head.

I set off full of energy and cut into the Great Park on my detour. Energy levels were good, body sensing told me my calf was a little tight so I would have to keep an eye on that. The weather was good and I had to keep telling myself to slow down, this was not the time to try for a PB!

As I was getting close to work I realised I had done just over 10km, eventually arriving at the front door of work having covered 10.60km in a time of 52mins 3secs. Thankfully I did slow down a bit. I had to keep telling myself this was only stage 1 of 5 stages!

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I passed the cleaner in the hallway who said I was the only one to use the gym this week; doesn’t surprise me.

With the music channel switched on, it was straight onto the rowing machine. I wanted to keep the transitions as quick as possible, to try and keep my HR high. Having never really done much rowing until this year, it is quite surprising how quickly your body adjusts and gets used to it.  I soon settled into a comfortable rhythm and zoned out watching the tv.

Whilst day dreaming on the rower it occurred to me that my run was half distance for HM. That was completely unplanned but I was
chuffed that I will have ran a HM by the time I get home.

image2The rowing was quicker than expected as I finished my 5km row in 23mins 36secs. Not bad considering my PB is only 3 mins quicker than this. Why do I always keep thinking about PBs! Need to stop this PB obsession with every activity I do.

Anyway it was off the rowing machine and onto the bike. The cleaner came by when I was just over half way on the bike. ‘You’re still here then?’ This statement makes me wonder how long the average person spends in the gym, if she thinks my 40mins is ‘still here then’!

I always get a right old sweat on when I am on the bike, thought you’d like to know that. Thing is my water bottle was empty and I still had 9km to go. My mind is now trying to process this fact and then make a decision. Do I slow down and sweat less, or, do I speed up and finish sooner? You’ve guessed it, I peddled like a man possessed! Eventually I finished my 20km cycle in 37 mins 11 secs, which again was only about 3 mins off my PB.

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It was a quick jog to the water fountain to refill the water bottle and then it was back on the rowing machine again.

I was actually feeling ok at this point and I completed my second 5km row in 23mins 51 secs, which was only 15 secs slower than my first row.  Considering I had now covered over 40km, I was quite pleased with myself.  image1Amazingly the cleaner came back to the cardio suite again, this time she brought someone with her, obviously to point out the lunatic that was still in the gym.

After finishing the row I quickly ate a Ginsters slice to get some much needed calories into the body.  Not the best thing to eat but it was in the fridge when I left the house, so why not.

Setting off on my run home I was starting to feel a little fatigued and I was certainly conscious of taking it easy. My calf was still sore but at no point did I feel like it was going to ‘go’ or cramp up.

Possibly feeling the effects of my slice kicking in, I steadily pushed out the return journey covering a total of 10.65km in 55 mins 58 secs.  Definitely slower by nearly 4 mins, but then that is to be expected. The extra .05 km came about because I ran down the drive which I didn’t do on the way out.

So what did I think of my spontaneous pyramid training programme? It was quite a lot of fun albeit tiring towards the end.  In total I ended up running a HM and covered 51.25km in total burning off over 3000 calories.  Have to admit the cleaner at work made it all the more entertaining, the look on her face the third time she came in was wonderful.  Would love to have taken a photo, but its hard to row, take a photo and chuckle to yourself all at the same time!

Would I do this programme again? Of course I would but it’s back to work in a few days time. Have to think of something else to do.

Book Review: Hell and High Water

I was delighted when I returned home and found this book waiting for me. I have followed the exploits of Sean Conway on Twitter for a while and I have always been intrigued by his adventures.

Hell and High Water is a great British adventure story.  I love the fact that the team embark on a swimming adventure and on the first day three of them, including Sean, are overcome by sea sicknesses!  This certainly bodes well for the next 2 months.

Reading this book makes you want to go out into the world and start your own adventure.  I think Sean greatly downplays the stress and worries he had to to deal with whilst in the planning phase. Not securing funding until the week before must have been remarkable stressful.  Being a planner myself, I am not sure my nerves could have coped with being that underprepared.

You certainly can’t let obstacles set you back otherwise you will never get anywhere. I once remember reading about a traveller who had his bag with all his belongings in it stolen whilst he was sat a cafe. The owner came out to see if he was alright and what was he going to do now. He asked if he was going to go home.  The traveller said he would carry on with his travels, this just added to the adventure and it would make great storytelling in years to come.  Even if you plan every detail, you still have to expect the unexpected and basically embrace being spontaneous. Sean displays this characteristic by suddenly deciding to change his plan and instead of swimming up the coast of Wales, he was going to swim across the Irish Sea and then go up the east coast of Ireland.  That is a pretty bold shout.

Somehow I managed to get to page 157 without even realising it.  I was getting slightly concerned by this point in the book as I was half way through and the adventure had only just reached Wales.  But fear not, the journey continues and shows you must never give up.  Always accept their will be difficulties and sometimes you just have to take small steps.  As we say in running, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to that finish line.

The other great thing that you take away from this book is the generosity of strangers.  The journey only continues because strangers are willing to help, whether it be a bed for the night, a jerry can of fuel, donating their personal time, replacing a kayak or even coming to the rescue with a RIB when yours unfortunately sinks in a storm.  You get that warm feeling that humanity stills exists.

This is a great book that I managed to read in just two sittings.  The pages kept turning and the chapters vanished at an alarming rate, until suddenly and some what disappointingly I reached the end.  I wanted the journey to continue, but alas all adventures must come to an end, until the next one starts!

I will have to look for another instalment, maybe Land’s End to John O’Groats: The Ride that Started it all!

Book Review: The Ultramarathon Man

This is truly an inspiring book for any runner.  The one thing that I really enjoyed is that Dean Karnazes realised something was missing in his life and then did something about it.  This book proves that you can run, train, work full time and have a family if you plan your time well.

Focusing on only a couple of races, such as his first ultra the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, followed by his failed attempt at Badwater in Death Valley a year later keeps the book flowing along at a quick pace.  It didn’t take long for Dean Karnazes to get hooked on running and his epic adventure to the South Pole is jaw dropping.  Is Dean still the only person to have run a marathon to the South Pole in running trainers?  I am not sure, but I doubt there are many that would want to take that challenge on.

The final encounter is The Relay, a 199 mile foot race that is split into 36 legs, where a 12 person team completes three legs each.  Yet Dean decided he wanted to complete the race solo, or Team Dean as it became known. It is incredible what the human body can endure, setting off at 5pm on Friday and arriving at the finish line on Sunday afternoon.  Did he sleep? Yes and just for a second and not entirely advisable.

What makes this book is that it focuses on the running and the physical and mental journey that has to be taken.  Dean has a fantastic sense of humour, even when his mental state is on a difference planet, the comments he would come out with are hilarious.

My modest running pales in comparison, but even in the couple of ultras I have run, there are parts of this book that I can fully relate to.  I understand the highs and lows, constantly assessing my body during a run, fighting the beast that constantly hides in the shadows just waiting to pull you down.  But in a strange sort of way, I enjoy that.

To me the highs are very illusive, just when I realise I am on a high,  its gone.  The lows however seem to stay with you for much longer.  All of a sudden you are doubting yourself, everything suddenly hurts, everything suddenly seems to be going against you and you to start to question why the hell are you doing this.  This is the real challenge, battling against your own mind. Keep putting one foot in front of the other until you get to that finish line.

It is a great feeling when you overcome all obstacles and Dean really demonstrates this.  Achieving great feats of endurance, with no publicity and no pomp or ceremony.  You get from the start line to the finish line and then go back to work again on Monday as if nothing happened.  Dean is so right when he says ultra runners do not do this for the glory or the fame, they do it for the personal challenge and to see if they can actually do it.

Virtual Ultra Triathlon: February Update

I am really delighted with how February has gone.  I managed to cover some real distance in running and cycling to the point that I am nearly a month ahead in both.

One thing I have noticed is that I am starting to feel slightly fatigued, but I believe this is down to nutrition rather than too much exercise.  My stats show that through exercise I burnt approximately 25,000 calories in February. This is just an approximation as I know one run I went for burnt considerable more calories than what was recorded.  Even a Garmin watch cannot take into account the boggy ground conditions and the fact you ran 12km wearing boots and carrying 16kg on your back. According to my Endomondo App I have now burnt at least 45,520 calories so far in 2016. This means I can now eat 177 Big Macs or 511 bananas, depending on how healthy I want to be. The good way of looking at this is that with all this exercise I could eat 3 Big Macs a day and it would be a zero sum outcome!

In order to maintain a healthy diet I believe I need to consume around 3,500 calories a day.  I know I am not even close to achieving this, and I suspect I am about 1,000 calories short per day.  No wonder I always feel hungry!

After two months here are the stats:

Running – Ardnamurchen Lighthouse to Lowestoft.

According to my tracker I managed to run a total of 129km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 246km, which means I have completed about 28.77% of my challenge.  The good news is that I am approximately 103.5km ahead of schedule.

My mileage was boosted this month due to a couple of long runs.  Interestingly my feet and legs are feeling really good, which I believe is all down to the techniques I have been learning from Chi Running. My running is improving so much that I went out for a run with no distance really in mind, only to find I knocked nearly 8 mins off my 10 mile PB.  I was really quite delighted to run 10 miles in 76 mins.

My virtual location has now jumped ahead due to a good month. I have just passed through Glasgow and now following the River Clyde as it winds its way towards Motherwell.

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Cycling – John O’Groats to Lands End.

According to my tracker I managed to cycle a total of 222km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 389km, which means I have completed about 25.1% of my challenge.  The good news is that I am approximately 130.67km ahead of schedule.

I continue to cycle to and from work, which given its dark and cold at the moment is not the most pleasant thing in the world.  It is also quite difficult to cycle home if I have done a long run that day.  But it is all contributing to my total and a couple of stints on the bike in the gym also help to push the mileage up.

My virtual location is still on the A9, however I am much further south now having passed through the Cairngorms National Park, Perth and the town of Waterloo!  Just about to arrive at the town of Aberuthven before heading south towards Stirling.

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Rowing – The length of the Thames

According to my tracker I managed to row a total of 41.2km this month.  My total distance so far is therefore 66.55km, which means I have completed about 19.23% of my challenge. The good news is that I am approximately 8.88km ahead of schedule.

My virtual location is now just approaching Bablock Hythe having passed through Chimney, Radcot, Johns Priory and Newbridge.

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I worked harder on my rowing this month as I was slightly behind schedule at the end of January.  It has taken some effort but I have managed to turn it around and now be slightly ahead of schedule.  I still need to put more work into this as I can easily see me falling behind again if I get some busy weeks in work.

Next stop March, the clocks change and I need to eat more.

Injury free running

Every runner dreams of running injury free for as long as possible, but we resign ourselves to the fact that that sooner or later we will be injured.  My time came last year when I sustained an unknown knee injury that ruled me out for 3 months!

The one good thing to come out of having an injury is that you take a long hard look at yourself and ask yourself the question: Why?

I analysed this question in my September 2015 blog and came to the conclusion my running form was really quite poor.  Having read a few books including Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, I embarked on a mission to change pretty much everything I did when it came to running.

Here I am in February having ran/cycle/row 519km so far in 2016, with 190km of that being running. These runs have ranged from a short 3km to a long 50km, outside and treadmill runs, weighted runs and Cross Country runs.  I am amazed that I have had no problems at all so far.  The only issue I had was on my long run when I started to develop cramp in my calf at about the halfway point.  However using body assessment, I managed to identify something was wrong and that the first little signs of cramp were starting to appear.  When this happens you have to think to yourself, what am I now doing differently that is starting to cause this?  No easy task to ask yourself this question in the middle of a run.  In my case I came to the conclusion that I was running too much on my toes causing me to put extra strain on my calf.  I therefore shortened my pace slightly, concentrated on my cadence and tried to ensure I maintained my mid-foot strike, almost to the point of running on a flat foot.  I amazed myself when this worked and the signs of cramp went away.  I eventually reached the end of that run and didn’t even so much as have a blister.

I believe the most important thing I learned from the Chi Running book was to have the ability to self assess every so often during a run.  It can be hard to bring your mind back on track and remember to check your body for signs.  Start with your feet and work your way up.  If you identify a pain or sore, is it normal, how bad is it, will it develop, are you doing something slightly different to cause it, can you resolve it now before it gets any worse.  To be able to do this whilst running you have to understand your body and how running affects it.  Some of the key principles I have learnt are:

1. Form.  Use your core muscles to keep your body straight.  Don’t bend forward from the waist, because that can put a strain on your lower back.  Keep a straight posture and lean forward using your core muscles and let gravity do the hard work for you.  If you lean forward, you will automatically put your foot forward to stop yourself from falling over.  If you want to run faster, lean forward further.

2. Cadence.  I like to run on treadmills from time to time as it allows me to measure my cadence easily.  Ideally you should be looking at about 180 steps per minute, however I struggle to reach this and end up around the 170 mark.  A quick cadence will ensure you keep a short stride because you want to make sure your foot is directly below you head when it strikes the ground.  This is important for protecting your knees and shins.

3. Foot Strike.  I believe a mid-foot strike is generally the best type of running placement.  From time to time I do resort back to heel strike, but this tends to be when I am running down hill.  In the old days of heel strike I always had issues with my knees and shins, when I tried fore-foot strike I had issues with my calves, yet mid-foot seems the ideal balance.  I am now pain free in my knees, shins and calves.  I also believe that a mid-foot strike allows the body to naturally use the foots arch to absorb the load bearing down.

4. Relax.  Easier said than done, but I find it is important to relax your legs.  Allow gravity to pull you forward and your feet to move short and quick and to plant in front of you.  Keep your shoulders relaxed, so that you don’t get a build up tension in your shoulders and neck.  I find looking around whilst running helps to relax my shoulders.  I also try to keep my hands up by my chest, open and relaxed.

5. Swing.  Seems a strange one but I try to swing my legs back not forward and I also try to swing my elbows backwards as well.  The reason for this is that swinging backwards, helps my core propel my body forwards.  I am sure some science person will be able to compare this to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion or to the Pendulum Motion.  Even if it doesn’t I find whatever the reason, it works for me.

Knowing all of these principles means that you can self assess and have a good idea of how to rectify an issue before it turns into a problem.  A year ago I would never have given these principles a second thought and would have blindly bounded on.  But as the weeks and months go by without any signs of an injury, the more I believe these principles actually work.

Virtual Ultra Triathon: January Update

The last few months of 2015 were pretty much written off due to a knee injury, however after a month of hard training it seems like my knee is holding up fine.  This is probably down to two reasons, the first reason is that having 3 months rest has obviously done wonders on my knee, but secondly and I suspect most crucially is that I have changed my running style.

I was always a heavy heel strike runner and the impact this was starting to have on my ankles, shins an knees was gradually getting worse as I grew older.  Something had to change, either stop running or modify the root cause of the issue which was my running style.  Trying to remember to stick to your new form when you are out running is not easy, whether it is to maintain that mid foot strike, maintain form, slightly lean forward so that gravity pulls you forward, keep your knees low and heels high, keep your arms up high and swing your elbows back.  These are just a few of the changes I have made, it is taking time but I am slowly getting there.  I read that it took Tiger Woods 18 months to adapt when he changed his golf swing, but when it clicked he was almost unstoppable.

Anyway to my 2016 virtual ultra triathlon challenge.  We are one month into it and I am ahead of scheduled on all three disciplines.  This has taken commitment, but then I knew it was never going to be simple. Thankfully my normal work routine is such that I can get a fair amount of exercise in during the week, without encroaching into the weekend.  If this challenge started to encroach into family time at the weekends, then I certainly wouldn’t be doing it.

After one month here are the stats:

Running – Ardnamurchen Lighthouse to Lowestoft.

According to my tracker I managed to run a total of 117km.  This means that I have completed about 13.7% of my challenge and I am approximately 45.75km ahead of schedule.

I managed to get a few long runs into the month, with the longest being 24km.  The other reason why I am probably ahead of schedule is due to the Cross Country races that I have taken part in.

My virtual location is on the A82 just approaching Loch Ba.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.27.41

 

Cycling – John O’Groats to Lands End.

According to my tracker I managed to cycle a total of 167km.  This means that I have completed about 10.7% of my challenge and I am approximately 37.83km ahead of schedule.

Cycling to and from work is definitely contributing well to my totals, however I do realise there will be some months when I am away or on holiday. So the plan at the moment is to get the kms in now as I know I can.

My virtual location is on the A9 passing the town of Alness and on my way to Cromarty Bridge.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.33.59

 

Rowing – The length of the Thames

According to my tracker I managed to row a total of 25.35km.  This means that I have completed about 7.3% of my challenge and I am approximately 3.48km behind schedule.

My virtual location is now just approaching Castle Eaton.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.41.41

 

I thought the Rowing part of the challenge would be where I would struggle the most, but as it happens it is not that difficult once I get the time to swing by the gym.  Once I do get in there and find a free rower, I can smash out a few kms and make up for the days I have missed.  However as the above shows I am slightly behind schedule so I will need to make up for this in February.

When it comes to the run and cycle, I am trying to ensure I keep a healthy balance between the two and ensure I keep any high tempo sessions separated by a rest or a generally relaxed day.  I am also fully aware that many things can happen in a year, such as an injury, so I am quite happy to see I am so far ahead of schedule on both the run and cycle.  I am sure some months will have less totals.

Next stop February.

My Virtual Ultra Triathlon

Whilst I was dreaming up what challenges I could set myself in 2016, I came up with the idea of completing my very own triathlon.  I knew it was going to be extremely difficult for me to get away in person, so the challenge would only be achievable if it were virtual.  If the challenge was going to last for the duration of 2016, then it would need to have  ultra status.

My challenge is therefore the following:

Running

About 5 years ago a colleague of mine wanted to cycle across the UK from the most westerly point to the most easterly point.  The venture never materialised, however the concept stayed with me.  Therefore the running element of my ultra-triathlon will be from the most westerly point, Ardnamurchan Lighthouse in Scotland, to the most easterly point , Lowestoft in Suffolk.

I have done a few variations of the route but have settled on the below version.  This route avoids all motorways and should, in theory, be achievable to run.  I could have planned a route that stayed to footpaths, however the distance was starting to get too high and I wanted to ensure the target was achievable. In total my route comes to 855km.

Run2 Ultra Triathlon Map

Cycling

The route I have chosen for the cycle element of my ultra-triathlon is the UKs greatest distance event, traveling from the north to the south or John O’Groats to Lands End.  Trying to stay true to a cycling challenge, the route I have chosen is one that avoids all motorways and is therefore achievable by bike.  In total my route comes to 1550 km.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 22.06.23

 

Rowing

Ok this is not quite a swim, but my virtual challenge has to be something that I am capable of achieving.  Unfortunately I do not have regular access to a swimming pool, but I do have access to a rowing machine.  After running west to east and cycling north to south, I wanted to do something that was recognisable, covered a suitable distance and was achievable.  I spent some time trying to think what rowing challenge I could take on, such as rowing the channel but in the end I came up with rowing the length of the Thames.  In total my route comes to 346 km.

Row Ultra Triathlon Map

Monthly Targets

The below table shows what my totals should be at the end of each month, if I want to be on track for completing my challenge by the end of 2016.  As long as  I cycle to and from work every day and go for a run three times a week I should be close to my targets, the only area that I will have to really work hard at maintaining is the rowing as this is something that I do not naturally do.

Event Running Cycling Rowing
January71.25 km129.17 km28.83 km
February142.50 km258.34 km57.66 km
March213.75 km387.51 km86.49 km
April285.00 km516.68 km115.32 km
May356.25 km645.85 km144.15 km
June427.50 km775.02 km172.98 km
July498.75 km904.19 km201.81 km
August570.00 km1033.36 km230.64 km
September641.25 km1162.53 km259.47 km
October712.50 km1291.70 km288.30 km
November783.75 km1420.87 km317.13 km
December855.00 km1550.00 km346.00 km

Updates as to my progress will follow, hopefully on a monthly basis.